For the first time, ARCH’s Preservation Committee has created a Candidate Survey that was sent to all Fort Wayne City Council and Mayoral candidates. ARCH wants to provide its members and friends with the opportunity to see what candidates for public office in Fort Wayne think about Historic Preservation.
ARCH thanks the candidates for their responses.
1. Have you ever been involved in historic preservation? How?
Tom Henry, Mayor: Historic preservation is important to me. Fort Wayne has a rich history and unique traditions and structures than I work to value and protect each day. As a former City Councilman and now Mayor for the past eight years, I’ve been a consistent supporter of historic preservation efforts. As Mayor, I’ve led the effort to continue to make the Fort Wayne Historic Preservation Commission an integral part of our community. The seven-member panel is appointed by the Mayor and shares a unified commitment to historic preservation. Commission members are City residents who care deeply about preservation and the development of historic areas and include professional with experience related to history, architecture, construction, and other disciplines related to historic preservation. I’m also fortunate to have dedicated historic preservation planners in our Community Development Division. The Commission is empowered to preserve and protect historically or architecturally worthy buildings, structures, sites and districts which serve as visible reminders of the historic heritage of Fort Wayne.
Mitch Harper, candidate for Mayor: Past Board Member of ARCH, Inc.; Past Board Member of the Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor; Past President of the Rivergreenway Consortium during the preservation of the historic Well Street Bridge.
As a State Representative I was chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee and was an advocate for legislation dealing with historic preservation. One example – authorizing language preserving Indiana’s railroad bridges. During the time as a State Representative I was a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and participated in its Annual Meeting.
Researched and wrote the first guide to New Haven’s historic structures.
Current President of the Mary and Perry Spencer Foundation which has in its scope grantmaking for preservation of historic structures and interpretation of history.
Russ Jehl, City Council, 2nd District: My experience with historic preservation is twofold: my experience as a real estate broker and my experience as a common council representative. As a real estate broker, I have toured thousands of homes and buildings, many of them old and/or historic. I especially understand the challenges and desirability of restoring these buildings. As a council representative, I understand the policies and delicate balancing acts involved in historical preservation. A great example is how the expansion of West State Blvd. will hurt the historic neighborhoods and the social fabric of East State Blvd.
Tom Didier, City Council, 3rd District: No.
John Crawford, City Council, At-Large: I donate to Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust. I helped the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust persuade the mayor not to move Anthony Wayne statue to courthouse square.
Mike Avila, candidate for City Council, At-Large: As a brickmason I worked on Chief Richardville’s home on Bluffton Rd, reworking one of the fireplaces. I also met with a contractor and ARCH to repoint a small building on Van Buren St. I rebuilt the kiln at the historic replica of the Fort. I also worked on the restoration of Klaehn, Fahl, Melton Funeral Home, 420 W Wayne St.
Michael Barranda, candidate for City Council, At-Large: Only indirectly through grantmaking with Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and Foellinger Foundation. Through FW Chamber and Regional Chamber, I have continually supported the expansion of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit in the State Legislature.
Tom Freistroffer, candidate for City Council, At-Large: Never Directly. Indirectly yes—I am state licensed appraiser and have appraised several historic homes!
2. How important do you believe historic architecture, such as historic downtown buildings, commercial corridors, historic houses and neighborhoods, institutional buildings or historic park resources are to the city’s economy, tourism, quality of life and perception as a world-class city?
TH: My administration respects and appreciates historic architecture. Preserving the history of the City of Fort Wayne is very important to me. A recent example of collaboration between city government and ARCH is the North Anthony Boulevard Historic District now being part of the National Register of Historic Places. ARCH worked with City staff and prepared the application that led to the historic designation. In addition to its importance as a vital transportation corridor, the North Anthony Boulevard Historic District is also a great place to live and work. The designation serves as recognition of the uniqueness of the neighborhood and is a great source of pride for our entire community. By working together, we can ensure that we understand and value historic architecture. One of the reasons we’re experiencing positive momentum and investments in our city is because of our ability to form public-private partnerships to protect and preserve our identity as we move Fort Wayne forward as a leader in economic development, tourism, and quality of life amenities to enhance our strong neighborhoods and make our community a desirable place to be.
MH: Extraordinarily important.
Without a physical framework, history is only taught in the abstract. Without historic structures and neighborhoods, the teaching of important parts of the history of a place can even be lost. This is no small thing.
Fort Wayne is a place crucial in the history of development of North America. The Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor has adopted a vision for the entire valley which would provide a framework for tourism throughout the region. As mayor, I would take concrete steps to realize that vision.
People take pride in what is distinctive about a place. Much has been lost but much is still to be preserved, interpreted and in some cases, restored. However, downtown Fort Wayne has had some astounding losses of historic structures and streetscape in the last three decades.
Preservation of historic downtown buildings shape a city’s identity but also serve as a place for incubators of new businesses which rise to address each generation’s conception of what is cool. That cannot easily be replicated by planners; this city needs to do more to encourage organic growth of those entrepreneurs.
We cannot be recognized as a world class city if we do not celebrate what made this place important to the world. This was a center of importance to Native Americans, it was a nexus of importance to the French in the New World; it was a place of importance in securing the Northwest Territory. The Northwest Ordinance, of course, is important to the world as a document of representative democracy; it was the only time that a country had made provision for new states to be created with the same powers as held by the existing states.
RJ: World-class cities, especially those with notable economic, tourism, and quality of life, all have a common, yet unique quality: soul. When talking about communities, we often call this “identity.” Every major City in America has major shopping malls and sprawl, and they all look the same and feel the same– but the visible soul of the community, that which makes it unique, is found elsewhere. Historic buildings and neighborhoods connect us with our past, they are aesthetically pleasing, and they identify who we are. World-class cities find harmony between the new and the old. This is a major reason I supported the Brightpoint Rudisill project and restoring the historic dorms.
TD: I personally believe there extremely important. I have almost every time voted in favor of not destroying our older structures. In fact I helped with the buildings on Broadway by St. Joe Lutheran Church, who wanted to tear down those buildings. I voted to save them.
JC: Definitely an important factor.
MA: I believe historic architecture is very important to the quality of live & attractions. It bridges the time span, lets people remember where we came from. Cities have to have something special to offer, and historic architecture is part of that specialness.
TF: Very important. Our historic buildings are part of our historic history & culture. When tourists or possible future residents come to the city they want to see its roots & its heritage. The architecture displays the character of the city. Preserving these precious buildings, statues, & homes are paramount to the quality of life & perceptions of Fort Wayne as a world class city.
3. What role do you think historic preservation should play in the revitalization of downtown Fort Wayne, the riverfront and commercial corridors around the city?
TH: We must continue to honor and value Fort Wayne’s rich history. Like never before, downtown Fort Wayne is a destination place for economic development, housing, retail options, and recreation/entertainment opportunities. We’re also investing in our riverfront that’s drawing local and national interest from residents and developers. We recognize that historic preservation does have a place in future downtown revitalization and commercial corridor efforts. Its’s evident right now with the re-use of the Randall Building for the popular Randall Lofts housing development. The Superior Lofts housing project is another example of preserving another important downtown building. Properties along The Landing will be repurposed for future housing, office, and mixed-use retail. We’re also seeing positive results with preserving commercial corridors. As a result, neighborhood businesses and historic structures are thriving. Through our successful Façade Grant Program, we’re making a meaningful difference to improve commercial corridors through public-private partnerships. From 2009-2014, the City has awarded $1.3 million in grant funding, which has leveraged more than $3.8 million of private investment toward improvements. A total of 72 projects have been completed since the program was introduced. The program has helped property owners revitalize building exteriors on Wells Street, Main Street, Calhoun Street, Taylor Street, Broadway and other heavily-traveled corridors throughout the heart of the City.
MH: [no response]
RJ: Despite all the recent wonderful Downtown projects, to me Fort Wayne’s pulse is best taken on Calhoun Street. Big, new projects are great, but they need organic, local support to avoid being sterile in character. The best way to achieve harmony in Downtown economic develop while still retaining “identity and charm” is through retaining as much historic architectural presence as possible. Randall Lofts is a great positive example. This is why I think Columbia Street’s redevelopment will be a bell weather project. It could be the new pulse of Fort Wayne, or it could become more “crudscape.”
TD: Utilize the buildings as much as possible the older structures are such a value to the community, and if torn down could never be replaced.
JC: Historic Preservation is one factor that we should consider as we make changes to these areas.
MA: I believe we should strive to preserve all we can, of course input from historic preservationists would be vital. There are many buildings of all age and design and each one will have to be looked at for value and importance. I believe my background in construction & masonry restoration will be added value to this process.
MB: As somebody that supports community and economic development, I support tools to help communities leverage their local assets. Historic Preservation is one of those tools.
TF: I think historic preservation should play a key role in the revitalization of downtown Fort Wayne, the riverfront & corridors around the city. When historic buildings or homes are torn down we lose a part of our past that disappears forever.
4. How do you think the city should be involved in developing individual properties with existing historic structures? How would this strategy differ for larger districts of multiple properties?
TH: Typically, as it has been made apparent by the Ledger Law Firm, private property owners drive development in Fort Wayne, whether it be a single structure or a large, multifaceted project. In that way, it is appropriate for City government to provide support services for historic preservation if requested by the property owner or otherwise required by state or federal law. Typically owners of a single parcel with a historic structure are more interested in historic preservation. On those kinds of projects we have a number of preservation success stories including a Commercial Façade Grant last year for the property at 520 Tennessee Ave. Larger projects are often more complex because of scale and number of structures involved. For those projects City government has to balance the interests of preserving the past with the interest in moving Fort Wayne forward. Ultimately, unless otherwise restricted, the owner decides how to use the property. Some will want to incorporate historic structures. Others may opt to remove older structures based on the usability of building, environmental concerns or to serve the larger purpose and context of the project. Regardless the City stands prepared to assist commercial property owners who are interested in preserving historic structures.
MH: The City must, of course, be mindful of the rights and resources of property owners who are investing their capital, their time and their knowledge in developing properties.
However, where the City is involved in providing the resources of its citizens, then it is obligatory that the City ensures that those resources are used in a way that does not destroy historic values.
A special approach to Code Enforcement for individual historic properties which takes into account the historic character of a structure, use of appropriate materials and techniques, and is sensitive to the needs of the character of a neighborhood.
RJ: I am a big supporter of “urban husbandry” when discussing revitalization. Big projects are important, but they can also be sterile in nature. Urban husbandry works because several small entrepreneurs, pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into an historic commercial area create more than just a shopping mall– they create a village with its own vibe (Calhoun Street, East State Village). Likewise, the same can be noted when dedicated homeowners remodel their historic homes. They make more than nice houses, they make desirable neighborhoods. (Oakdale, West Central).
Specifically to the question, the best incentive tool for individual properties is tax abatement, while larger commercial developments is TIF. HANDS is the vehicle for large residential projects.
TD: Same as answer on 1st page, # 3. Only difference if structure is unsafe.
JC: Historic structures should be preserved if possible.
MA: A large district of multiple properties of historic nature could be designed with a common goal and attraction. An individual property on the other hand, might not fit in with the rest of th area. Under these circumstances the true value of the historic structure would have to be considered. The city should encourage development that enhances the preservation of the area while growing the area. Obviously infrastructure and other funding should be made available to stimulate positive development.
MB: I would support a strategic vision that helps Fort Wayne formulate a plan through the Fort Wayne Community Development office that articulates a vision for the role of historic preservation in the city’s planning.
TF: Historic Preservation has potential to act as a development tool, not just as growth, because it creates jobs & increases tax bases & property values. But it also improves the quality of life & living environment. When developing individual properties with historic structures one has to keep in mind store fronts signs, windows & the exterior of the existing structure to blend with the new. Codes, standards & the character of the older structure must be considered to blend with the newer structure.
5. How important are transportation and traffic concerns compared to retaining the historic character and design of neighborhoods?
TH: I’ve been committed to providing residents and businesses with unprecedented investments in transportation and traffic projects throughout the entire City. These efforts bring new jobs to Fort Wayne and retain jobs already here. Transportation investments also enhance and strengthen our neighborhoods, improving the great quality of life in our community. Historic character is important for any City that wants to be successful, and we design and engineer projects in a manner that strives to preserve history as much as possible. We also realize that transportation safety, efficiency, and effectiveness are critical to the well-being of all of us in Fort Wayne. Careful planning leads to major improvements for neighborhoods that will strengthen our community for generations to come. We continue to make significant investments in our neighborhoods. By working together, our neighborhoods are strong and vibrant. We’re making an impact and building on our momentum.
MH: Transportation planning cannot only be about facilitating quick traffic through the city. Transportation planning should be about efficiently moving traffic within the city, connecting nearby neighborhoods more directly and certainly avoiding designs that divide neighborhoods.
Fort Wayne had been a city that once planned for boulevards that added to the commonwealth of the citizens and burnished the neighborhoods they touched.
Those investing in historic neighborhoods should have confidence that there is somewhat at the helm of the city who is appreciative of the principles of Daniel Burnham. And, it should be noted, Mr. Burnham also laid out the principles that all improved streets, once built, should be well-maintained.RJ: Transportation and traffic concerns are vital for historic neighborhoods. My understanding of this issue is confirmed by my support of John Shoaff’s efforts to reduce the scale of the West State road expansion due to its pending negative effects on the neighborhoods of Northside and Forest Park. I also note how important trails and the Greenway have been to the positive direction in the historic neighborhoods of my district.
TD: Historic Buildings will always trump roads.
JC: Both transportation and traffic concerns and historic character are important. Each individual project would determine who relatively important they were on that project.
MA: Transportation directors and historic partners will have to come to terms on this particular part of planning. If we make traffic flow difficult no one will want to travel to see the history and beauty of the area.
MB: See #4. Comprehensive planning is important to balance important issues such as walkability, traffic flow and neighborhood enhancement, while maintaining the integrity of those neighborhoods.
TF: Transportation enhancements give communities more & better access to a vibrant historic downtown. Bike paths, improved roads, makes it easier to get to jobs & improves the quality of lives of the citizens. We need to preserve landscaping, roads & protect the scenic or historic easements of the historic site. Historic signs & markers must be coordinated with higher traffic areas and routes to historical districts.